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Wild Western Review Part 2

25 Apr 2012 Sarah said

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Continuation of Wild Western Review Part 1...

Day 9 - The tour went to Yosemite National Park for a day trip. I was tired and battered from Las Vegas so I took a pass on this trip. Most people did go though, and were excited because it was the first time a lot of them has seen snow (this is in early October). A couple of my roommates and I stayed in bed most of the day staying warm and watching a Kardasians marathon on E! There is a mini-spa at Bass Lake, so I booked in for a massage - exactly what my body needed. It was quite cold and drizzly, and we also spent some time in the swimming pool and hot tub. Bass Lake is beautiful - I can imagine it would be an amazing place to be in summer, with water sports and such things available to do. We had some kind of buffet dinner that night. I think the group goes to Lake Tahoe instead of Bass Lake during the winter.

Day 9 - Up early and on the road to San Francisco. Arrived in San Fran about lunchtime and stopped of at Fisherman's Wharf for lunch. Lots of restaurants/places to eat. We were fortunate to be there during a week where they have an airshow, so there were stacks of people around and airshows over the harbour to look at. Pretty cool. Following lunch the bus took us on a tour of the city and pointed out key features. San Francisco is such an eclectic mix of people and sights and buildings, etc. Very cool. Also went to the Golden Gate Bridge for some photos.
Stayed at Hotel Whitcombe, which was ok. Pretty amazing beds, but the hotel is in an area that isn't the best. Lots of homeless people of the streets outside, which is ok during the day, but not so safe at night. Wasn't feeling the best, so skipped the group dinner and took myself to an Irish pub for dinner, and then hung out with some locals at the bar the group came to after dinner.

Day 10 - I had such big plans for San Fran when I was planning my trip. Unfortuneatly I was very broken from Vegas - my ankle was an absolute mess and for awhile I thought it might actually be broken (was actually a bad sprain), so I really struggled here. Don't let that be a reflection on the city, because San Fran is awesome. Breakfast at the hotel was pretty average... don't expect great things. Went to Alcatraz in the morning. I really enjoyed this - so much history and the tour inside the prison is just amazing. You do an audio tour which gives history behind each section of the prison. I was in so much pain, but very much worth it. After we got back from the island, went to one of the Fisherman's Wharf restaurants for lunch. Ha a great lunch, and then left the tourmates I was with to look around. Watched some of the airsho, and looked around the market, before walking into the CBD. Came across San Fran's Occupy protest, which must have been in it's very first days which was interesting. I went to the Apple store and bought my beloved iPhone. Hobbled around a bit and looked t some shops. I had really wanted to se the Picasso exhibition on at the time, but I literally could barely walk. Went back to the hotel and iced ankle/had a sleep. passed on the tour dinner in Chinatown, and ordered pizza in at the hotel. There was a leather convention in the lobby which was fascinating to people watch.

Day 11 - Another full day in San Fran - still in pain, still coming down off my cocktail of alcohol and painkillers which had kept me moving from Vegas until this point. Spent the morning in bed, and then met some of the crew at a mall for looking around/shopping/lunch. The last day with one of my fav tour people, so spent ome time with him. Dinner was at an Italian place in the Castro, hich I think is the gay district. Fairly average meal, but had a good time. Pretty much everyone went back to the hotel to bed after dinner.

Day 12 - Left San Fran in the morning for Carpenteria, our final night. We spent most of the day in the bus, and watched movies on the way. Went past Facebook HQ in Palo Alto which was kind of cool. Stopped in Santa Barbara mid afternoon for some free time. We went to get an icecream on the wharf and hang on the beach. Caught the bus to Carpenteria which is maybe 10 mins away (and accom substantially cheaper) and checked into hotel, and got ready for dinner. Dinner was back in Santa Barbara at a bar. Back to hotel for drinking games.

Day 13 - Left Carpenteria for Hollywood. Ariived maybe lunchtime, did a mini tour of the key streets and then were let off at The Grove for lunch. Not sure how to explain the Grove. A collection of shops and restaurants, and a great market. We saw Mario Lopex (Saved by the Bell) and his tv show which he films there. Also saw Demi Lovato. Quite a cool place. After lunch stopped off at the Kodak Theatre and Hollywood Highlands. Tiger Woods was doing a promo there, so we got to see him. Another optional time. I did the celebrity homes tour, partly because when I booked it I couldn't walk and the thought of sitting down appealed to me. The homes weren't so interesting, but going around the streets was. Hollywood Hills were a lot of celebrities live surprised me. The roads were pretty potholed, and not nearly as nice as I thought they would be. Beverley Hills was very groomed.
In Hollywood Highlands, the shopping centre, there is a shop called Sephora. Ladies - if you waant to buy makeup then this is the place for you. I could have easily spent many hundreds of dollars here but luckily I restrained myself. They have many top brands such as Dior and YSL at crazy prices compared to back home.
Following Hollywood. we went back to the Kyoto in LA and said goodbye to a lot of people. Very sad. A couple of us went to Wokcano for dinner, which I thoroughly recommend.

Post Tour Day 1 - Five of us from the tour went to Disneyland, via Starline tours. I didn't originally intend to go here, but thought may as well since I'm here. Took maybe 1.5 hours to get there on the bus. Got to Disney at maybe 9.30 am. Shockingly, th place was full of children. For some reason we didn't anticipate that! Everything is perfectly groomed and themed. We made an effort at mapping out which order to do the big rides in. There is a thing called Fast Pass (?) where ou can get tickets for the ride and they tell ou when to come back. Good way of skipping the queue, but you can only FastPass one ride at any time. Our group got separated at the Haunted House which was a shame. Did most of the big rides. Space Mountain was great. Remember, as this place is kid friendly, there rides are not thrill rides. Picked up a mandatory set of mickey mouse ears and went on It's a Small World, which was another cool ride. We stayed until maybe 6pm and met up wih the others for the bus ride back. Stopped off in Hollywood for dinner - Planet Hollywood, great food. Might have caught a taxi back to LA. Taxis pretty cheap.

Post Tour Day 2 - Left Kyoto and caught a town car (I ordered a taxi!!) to the Hollywood Hostel. I miscounted the nights I needed to stayed after the tour, so booked this in at the last minute. This is a pretty good hostel. Clean, nd very central.. Met up with two of the tour people who were staying at same hostel and then went into town for a cheap and cheerful lunch. Looked around during the afternoon - a lot of costume shops on Hollywood Blvd.
In the evening, my tourmate and I went to a live filing of Rove LA!!! I think he got tickets off the website or something. Anyway, went to the studios and had to wait in line for ages. Talked to some very friendly locals in the queue. Finally got admitted into the studio and seated for the show. Guests were Eva Longoria and Steve Carrell!! Rove is filmed pretty much as one take apart from ad breaks. Very cool experience. Following that we were quite hungry so when we passed Hooters on the main strip, we though why not. Bad bad mistake. Do not think this is good idea. The food is absolutely terrible. I had a hotdog which was more plastic than anything else. Friend has some dodgy chicken and maybe a burger? Picked up some cheaper alcohol on the way bad to hostel and had drinks in the front courtyard.

Final day - Aim was to go to Venice Beac/Santa Monica Pier. Tour mate was very unwell from Hooters the night before. I ended up taking myself back to The Grove and just hung out. Had lunch at the Cheesecake Factory - recommend! Had a really nice time just chilling out and killing time before my flight. In the evening caught a shuttle to LAX for my flight. What a terrible airport. Really disappointing - duty free was pretty much non existent, and there were only a couple of food places. Got a full body pat down as I was wearing a loose dress.
That's pretty much it!

General Tips:
- You can get good and healthy food here. You just might need to look for it. Don't feel like you have no choice but to eat crap food.
- Talk to as many people on your tour as you can.
- Do as many optionals as you can. It does add up, but what's a couple of hundred extra considering how much the whole trip is costing.
- Make sure you keep plenty of $1 bills on hand for tipping.
- Toilet bowls fill alarmingly high after you flush them. This is normal. The majority o public restrooms were very clean and had soap, but carry hand sanitiser with you as well
- Free wi-fi is plentiful. If you have a smartphone or ipod touch bring it.
- Starbucks is your friend. America has not grasped the concept of real coffee. Most places have awful filter stuff that has been stewing for hours. Starbucks is cheap and you know what you are getting.
- Do not use ATMs in the casinos in Vegas. I almost did, and then realised there is a $20 transaction fee. Be warned.
- You cannot and will not experience Vegas in two nights/one day. If this is the key reason for your trip, spen at least a week here.
- Girls, you do not need to wear heels when you go out. Don't feel obliged, and don't let them ruin your trip like min did.
- No passport, no alcohol. Everyone gets id'ed here. If you are under 21, I would recommend not coming on this tour.
- Even if you have a travel adapter, the voltage has to be right. My GHD did not work. THis could have been a major, but my roommate had one (that did work)

This trip was so much fun, especially the first half. I'd do it again in a flash!

  • 26 Apr 2012 Rebecca said

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    I’m doing the Grand Southern and now I want to do this as well… Even if it means I go to the Grand Canyon and Vegas twice.

  • 3 May 2012 sarahjayne said

    sarahjayne

    oh no! no ghd? what one did your friend use??

  • 21 May 2012 Sarah said

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    We arrived in Vegas about 2.30/3pm. We went via Freemont Street to Dinner. Might of had to meet the bus at 7pm?

    Alcatraz I think is a must in San Fran. Only three people did the Napa Valley wine tour. Quite a few did the Bike and Roll. I think a lot of people just cruied around, and hung out by the waterfront.

  • 1 Jun 2012 john lavis said

     john lavis

    thank you for putting this info up. my partner and I are going in august this year.
    what do you think is a good amount of spending money to take?

  • 22 Jan 2013 Duffy said

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    thank you for your review- need to talk to you about some stuff as i am booking up in a couple of days- been putting off firming up the trip as this is my first trip on my own and so would want to know whether this is the sortof trip that would suit a 21year old first timer :) would appreicate it: email is: sylvia.duffy@ntlworld.com

    thanksss :)

  • 22 Jan 2013 Matt said

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    Totally recommend it, if you are open minded and keen on meeting people from all over the world. Interest in party and having fun is a plus. Bring enough money for extra activities. Helicopter flight over the Grand Canyon is mind blowing. :)

  • 22 Jan 2013 Duffy said

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    ok so i am all happy with meeting people— love it but i am not a massive bar crawler! would that fact make the trip any less of a go-er ? plus as a 21 year old, would being one of the youngest be a problem. One last thing, how many solo travellers went on the trip when you went?

    thanksss :)

  • 22 Jan 2013 Matt said

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    Well it depends. Of course there are people who aren’t into partying but most of them are, but it is not that you are going into a club or pub each night. This is just every second or third day. In the other nights we went for dinner, had a drink or cocktail there or just hung out in someones room (chill or drinking games ;), but you don’t have to if you don’t want to, but it’s a good way to get to know each other). 21 is okay, I think that most people on our tour were between 23 and 28, but we also had people who were just 18, which sucks a bit because you can’t go into the clubs with the others and the oldest were 35. Even the age difference between them wasn’t a problem. Moreover, most people travel as a couple or with buddies. Howerver there are also people who are traveling alone. After the tour I won’t fear to book my next contiki as a solo traveler.

    If you want to know more details or see some pictures just give me a private message.

  • 22 Jan 2013 Duffy said

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    yes i would like that that would be cool- not sure how to private message, but my email is sylvia.duffy@ntlworld.com
    OK ;/ ppl mostly travel together then ? :/

  • 20 Aug 2013 Aaron said

    Aaron

    Hi Sarah. I’m going on this tour on Sunday, after reading your review I’m really looking forward to it! How much spending money would you recommend bringing?

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